Subroto Chattopadhyay’s Blog: Who can make the next big film?


Saregama India MD Subroto Chattopadhyay
Saregama India MD Subroto Chattopadhyay
Saregama India MD Subroto Chattopadhyay
Saregama India MD Subroto Chattopadhyay
Saregama India MD Subroto Chattopadhyay
Saregama India MD Subroto Chattopadhyay
Saregama India MD Subroto Chattopadhyay
Saregama India MD Subroto Chattopadhyay

Who can make the next big film?? This kid who worked on Ghajini!

It is the privilege of a boss is to choose a team, if I enumerate the only qualification I have I would put recognition of my inabilities as the one feel most sure about.

It just helps me find someone who is good at what the job requires and give the broad contours of the requirement and leave the person to go and deliver. In Philip Mason’s book the Men Who Ruled India he speaks about a collector who sends out a memo to his officers, which goes as follows "this is your district now go and deliver the results, if you have serious doubts check with me and if I find you are embarking on making a serious mistake I shall over rule you, if you make a habit of either I have little use for you"

If empirical evidence is to be an yardstick I am a good talent scout.

Managing India’s oldest entertainment company is fun but for me this is one business where I have rely on everyone but myself, no one wants to hear me sing, i have two left feet so cant dance, i dabble in still photography which is not good enough, I cant figure out how the ordinary girl next door lights up the screen or a man in platform shoes puts up a riveting performance, i have a horror of the humbug therefore not diplomatic, not particularly social and for sure i cant figure out in a script session how can a story of a rich boy meets a poor girl becomes a hatke film sweeping awards every time.

Yet I love films, music and television and I know that I know little of how it happens.

The problem however is I do know whether the person who claims to be this subject matter expert is indeed one, which means I have to dismiss pretenders. Hordes of specialists in music, film making, production, marketing and spin doctors form a large cast but one knows they are at best extras and at worst pretenders.

We have for a few years wanted to make films, everyone wants to make films, for a person with lower order capabilities like me I was challenged, I have spent years making 60 seconders on colas, juices, water, cigarettes and tea there were story boards, pre-testing tools and Millward Brown techniques before we burnt GRPs in Super Bowl. It managed to sell a few more dollars worth of goods and the agency got awards.

But on the street I live I was at sea, flashing eyelashes, animated description of fight sequences, humming if anataras and mukras (for starters I thought Anatara was a singer and mukhra was her face, I didn’t have the guts to ask what happens to the male lead,) and the last line would be if you don’t give the check by this week end we are going to go BIG !!

I stayed intimidated and shrunk, losing 6 kilos over the 3 years. But we needed to make films, full stop that was the future. I had done a strategy note which firmly established that entertainment and content meant create and exploit every copyright a film generates. Needless to say everyone has the same strategy so.

With my inappropriate background I reached out to various search firms and knew I was getting now where. The overs were running out and I was to say the least flummoxed.

Sometime in the 2nd quarter of 2007 a young head hunter put up a few names and I asked him to send the candidates across to amuse me on a summer afternoon.

Two out the three did not come but one did. He seemed to be down and out, he was wearing frayed jeans and a crumpled jacket and large pointed shoes.

He walked into my office and took off his jacket and I for the next 45 minutes sat somewhat dazed and transfixed. This kid had been with Ram Gopal Varma for 10 years, Manmohan Shetty for a couple, and run a music label business which went belly up and was producing a film with Aamir Khan called Ghajani.

Madhu Mantena for reasons best known to him struck up a rapport with me and I dare say I sensed this young man knew what he was talking about. I, as they would say in Pepsi, "bajaoed him" and he sang his heart out. He knew what I did not.

I know along with my other colleague BR Sharan who in my view is amongst the very best in the creative field, gentle, reclusive, reticent but very insightful; I had found our man in Master Mantena.

I must say Madhu had an added qualification he is a Hyderabadi like me. Also we share a common qualification bull shitting it takes one bull shitter to know another and I knew when the lovable rascal was at it.

He to say the least is a pleasant pain in the neck, mid night calls, SMSes when I was busy horsing around, sound assessment, ability to say no and go for the kill and a great team player. I took to the man.

I saw him passionately own problems I would park with him and find solutions, and I tracked him as he built the film called Ghajani. For the first time ever I saw a feature film first day second show in Baroda on Christmas and I felt really proud when his name appeared in the credits. A bit selfish but then I wanted to see him win.

I have the singular honour of having a reasonably large number of managers in leadership position across the industry who worked as a part of my team I like to see my colleagues become stars it is my privilege that Madhu joins that galaxy.

PS: I discovered aspects of sartorial high points in that frayed jeans were cool and crumpled jackets are the latest in thing from some Milanese designer have ceased to comment on Madhu’s style.

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(The views expressed herewith are that of the author alone and need not necessarily subscribe to the same.)